Hi this is Pastor Ken and I want to thank you for joining me yet again for the Monday Marriage Message. This is the sixth edition in our study on the topic of marriage and divorce. Last week we continued to listen in on the conversation between Jesus and the two groups of Pharisees as they exchanged questions and responses about marriage and divorce. Jesus was trying to keep the Pharisees on track by speaking in terms of marriage while the Pharisees were trying desperately to focus solely on the subject of divorce .

When we last examined their exchange it was the Pharisees turn to speak. Jesus had asked them what Moses had written in the law concerning the subject. As I noted, Jesus desired the conversation surround the righteous topic of marriage and so He was referring to Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Jesus then added additional commentary; “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh, Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:8,9 & Matthew 19:6). The first of the two groups of Pharisees, wanting to remain on the topic of divorce responded to Jesus question; “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and to dismiss her” (Mark 10:4) and the second group responded by asking Jesus, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?” (Matthew 19:7) As I mentioned in last week’s podcast these responses from the Pharisees were an attempt to twist the law so that they could interpret it the way they wanted to and feel justified in divorcing their wives. The portion of the law they were referring to is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and today we will look at that scripture, and see what it actually says.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

There are several things that must be taken into account in order to accurately interpret what this portion of the law is dictating. First it must be determined what kind of law this is. What I mean by that is what form does the law take? Basically there are two kinds of laws found in the Pentateuch [ˈpen(t)əˌto͞ok] (the first five books of the Old Testament). The first is demonstrable law, in which we find absolute commands or prohibitions and are simply the statutes of God. We recognize these as the “Thou Shalt…” and the “Thou Shalt Not…” laws. The ten commandments are a widely known example of demonstrable law. The second form of law found in the Pentateuch is case law.  This form of law is given beginning with a description of the conditions under which the law is applicable. These cases usually begin with Hebrew words that are most accurately translated “if” or “when”. Following the conditions where the law would apply again usually following the word “then” the legislation is laid out. A good example of case law is found in Exodus 21:33-34. There the law dictates that if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or donkey falls into the uncovered pit, then the man who dug the pit must pay the value of the ox or donkey to its owner and he (the one who dug the pit) takes possession of the dead animal. The statute opens with the conditions and closes with the ruling. There is no legislation in the conditions under which the law is to be carried out. In other words, in the example we just looked at there is no law dictating that a man is to dig a pit or refrain from such activity. It is inferred that if a pit is dug it is not supposed to be left open, carelessly creating a hazard for others. However, it is not until after the scenario is fully laid out that the legislation is produced, he will be held liable for damages someone else incurs because of his carelessness.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is an example of case law. In order for the Pharisees to make the claims they did in reference to this passage, they had to take the portion they knew full well was the presentation of the particulars of the case and illegitimately conclude them to be demonstrable law. This was an inaccuracy that contained too many interpretive errors to have been committed ignorantly by scholars of the law. These men understood the difference between demonstrable law and case law. They knew the structure of case law and were well aware that the legislation found there was given only after development of the circumstances. I think it important for us to examine where they miss-applied their interpretation.

Let’s begin with the opening phrase of this example from case law. “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her… The first stipulation offered for the enactment of the legislation is that a man has married a wife. That is quite self-explanatory. The second fact in evidence is that it happens that (in other words, after they are married) she finds no favor in his eyes. The word favor here comes from the Hebrew word [hen] which means grace and is the same word found in the Genesis text “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. Continuing on we find out that in this case, the wife has not found favor or grace in the eyes of her husband because he has discovered some uncleanness in her. This translation – uncleanness – comes from the Hebrew word [er-vah] that means nakedness or indecency, and is offered as the reason the husband has found no favor in his wife.

The next phrase is simply a continuation of the circumstances that lead to the prescribed ruling. and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house.  If we are to avoid being confused, or misled by the Pharisee’s attempt at deceit in their conversation with Jesus it is crucial to understand that this is as I said a moment ago, only a continuation of the facts in evidence. It is in no way meant to stand alone as a legislative decree. Why is this important? The Pharisees from the school of Shammai were purposefully and errantly noting the wife’s indecency as God determined grounds for divorce. Furthermore, they were attempting to equate a scripturally mentioned tradition of putting a certificate of divorce in the hand of an undesirable wife and sending her out of the marital home with a God ordained procedure where there is no evidence one ever existed.

The second verse of this passage offers further information which will ultimately lead to the actual legislation. when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, in this case the wife has been divorced because of some found-out indecency involving her past or perhaps in the present, and it has caused her husband to no longer favor her. Additionally, it becomes apparent that she has remarried.

Verse 3 continues on with further important information about the case. if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,… The circumstances now dictate that one of two alternative scenarios takes place. The first variable would be if her new husband detests her. The original Hebrew text intimates that this husband would have also decided that he no longer is pleased by his wife, but no specific reasoning is offered for his change of heart toward her. The school of Hillel took this to mean that his displeasure with her was (A) open to any cause he deemed valid, and (B) errantly as their counterparts did, determined that because the existing tradition of a certificate of divorce was mentioned the process surrounding it could be interpreted as a God given procedural format for divorce. Again in order to subscribe to this errant exegesis many other accepted rules of interpretation had to have been ignored.

Lastly, this passage offers the other variable that could lead to the need for a statute at the conclusion of the case. Or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,… This is not only the conclusion of the case requiring a legislation from God, but it also goes to pointing out some of the logical inconsistencies the Pharisees were using to stipulate that earlier described circumstances from the case law were in effect equal to demonstrable law. If their logic was followed to its conclusion, then the death of a husband before that of his wife would also have to be considered demonstrable law. In other words, if we take the first two scenarios and equate the enactment of a divorce with a command from God, then one could conclude that God commanded that husbands must die before their wife.

Next time we will continue with our brief look at this passage that the Pharisees tried to contort to indicate that Moses had commanded them as to how to enact a divorce proceeding. We will look at necessary evidence needed to hold to that belief and the blatant fact that it does not exist. We will also examine some of the other problems the Pharisees had with their own interpretation of this passage and how they ignored those facts. Finally, we will look at the actual legislative portion of this passage from the law and discover the true meaning of the statute.

Questions to Answer:

  • Until now, have you thought that God gave the people of Moses time a prescription for divorcing a spouse?
  • Have your thoughts on that changed any as you look closer at the scriptures used to support it?
  • What do you think about the two different grounds for divorce that were utilized in this case law from Deuteronomy?
  • Do you think all, either, or neither of them are valid?

Actions to Take:

  • Discuss what you have learned so far in this study with your spouse.
  • Talk about how you think this is problematic for people in our society

So now, Keeping the focus of your relationship with your spouse on the righteous subject of marriage…Go Be Awesome!